Published on February 22nd, 2018 | by Brittain Thompson0
Ole Miss Graduate’s Collegiate Tutoring Company Thriving
Collegiate Tutoring is Lee Ingrams tutoring company based out of Oxford, Mississippi. What started as a summer job to fill his free time snowballed into a business that he runs full time. His office is located in the Innovation Hub at Insight Park at Ole Miss. Ingram was awarded a year of free rent in the office space after winning the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship ’s annual Gillespie competition.
“I was a junior accounting student and it was the first time I had ever stuck around Oxford in the summer,” said Ingram. “Experiencing that and trying to figure what to do I decided to tutor accounting.”
Over that summer Ingram worked with 15 students. As the workload continued he realized the strain was burning him out.
“I thought to myself, ‘I gotta figure out how to keep helping people without losing my mind’ and it evolved from there,” said Ingram. “I hired people to come on board while growing the client base.”
With the staff of tutors working under him, Ingram was able to focus on expanding Collegiate Tutoring.
“Three years later we’re working on expanding to other schools and we’ve got software engineers building an application that makes it easier to meet with tutors,” said Ingram.
As with most startups, Ingram faced a sharp learning curve in how to keep everything moving forward. While his passion for helping others sparked the idea for his business, he found a calling in the entrepreneurial aspects of the company.
“It’s been crazy. I love helping people. I love tutoring and teaching accounting,” said Ingram. “But I found that I’m super passionate about entrepreneurship. I think I’m really good at finding clients, taking care of them, and that’s why we’ve done so well. I focus on providing a really good service.
“It’s definitely a quality over quantity thing. Managing the capacity is a lot easier than it seems. Just as there’s so many people who need tutoring here, there’s plenty of brilliant people who were like I was over the summer.”
Given that Ingram started as the company’s sole tutor he’s able to use his experience to help coach the new hires on what to expect and how to work with the clients.
“I’ve seen just about everything in my own tutoring sessions so I’m pretty good at preparing tutors for what to expect and making them feel comfortable,” said Ingram. “That’s really important if you’re going to tutor someone on a complex topic. You’ve got to be confident.”
Ingram cites the reason for their consistent growth as when the company decided to pivot towards working with greek organizations. Collegiate Tutoring works with the on-campus chapters to provide tutoring at no direct cost to its members. Ingram did not anticipate this business model when starting out, but saw it as an opportunity to help them build the company even bigger and better.
“What we’re supposed to build at Collegiate Tutoring is a tutoring organization for a college campus that primarily focuses on greek organizations,” said Ingram. “We’re talking to a greek organization at Mississippi State and at Ole Miss we work with four.”
With Collegiate Tutoring well established at Ole Miss, Ingram is now directing his attention towards expanding to new campuses.
“Since we started I wanted to put a lot of energy into this because I knew it could evolve into something bigger later. It’s just taken a lot longer than I imagined,” said Ingram.
The first hurdle in growing to a new campus is making sure the software is able to scale up to the needs that come with expanding your business.
“I’m a non-technical founder and that’s been a learning experience. We’re on the third iteration of the software team after the previous ones crashed and burned, but that’s part of growing. We look at it like, ‘Okay we lost this much money, but it was less money than we lost last time.'”
Ingram’s happy with the progress his current software team of Adam Tutor, Danny Fan, and Prithaj Nath has made with scaling their platform up to increased demand. Now he just has to work on recruiting tutors at campuses in Starkville, Memphis, and the Jackson area.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” said Ingram. “I look for students to become tutors at those campuses and then choose the ones that show leadership to help us manage.”
With the company’s new locations, Ingram will have to manage the new campuses remotely.
“I’m from Ole Miss so growing here has been easy,” said Ingram. “But I’ve slowly been pulling more remote. I do all my tutor interviews on the phone—I do all my work on my laptop. I’m thinking about all of it as if it were another campus.”
With how the first three years have gone, Ingram says he can’t imagine what the next three will be like, but hopes to add a few more zeros to the number of students they’ve helped. If you’re interested in contacting Collegiate Tutoring for their services or in becoming a tutor yourself, you can visit their website here.